Most job-seekers have had this experience: You find a job you think you’d be perfect for, but you don’t have the exact experience the posting describes.
Do you simply move on? Or apply anyway and hope the recruiter sees potential in you? According to TopResume’s career expert Amanda Augustine, you do the latter — but only if you’re ready to sell yourself.
Below, Augustine gives three tips for selling yourself to a potential employer, even if you don’t have all of the qualifications they’re looking for:
1. Be proactive about building skills
During your job search, Augustine suggests gathering three to five job descriptions that represent the type of position you’re looking for. Even if you don’t plan on applying to every job, she says having these descriptions side-by-side will give you a clear idea of the common skills employers are looking for in this particular role.
If there is a skills gap, then she says look into taking a quick online course at a site like Lynda.com. The idea, she says, is not to show that you’re an expert at something. The idea is to be able to demonstrate a working knowledge of the skills an employer is asking for.
When you go into an interview, Augustine says you can tell a hiring manager, “I understand you are looking for this and here are the steps I have taken to gain those skills.” Then, she says, you want to show what skills you already have that will help you to fulfill the demands of the job. “If you do this,” she explains, “you are miles ahead and will impress an employer.”
2. Maximize unpaid experiences
If you’re a recent college graduate, you’ve likely encountered entry-level jobs that inexplicably require three to five years of experience. It’s frustrating, but don’t panic. Augustine suggests you take out a pen and paper and brainstorm everything you have done in college that helped you to “build the skills that will make you attractive to employers.”
This includes, she says, internships, volunteer experiences and local organizations that you were part of. Even senior level classes that called for you to work on a big research project or to do impactful work in the community can be considered, adds Augustine.
“It’s all about positioning,” she says. “Your resume is a marketing document and you want to position it for whatever you are going after. That means play up the things employers are looking for and play down the things they aren’t.”
This same idea applies to more seasoned professionals. If you’re applying for a job that you aren’t 100 percent qualified for, emphasize your strongest skills and greatest accomplishments to date, so that employers can focus on those.
3. Find an advocate
Data from a Hewlett Packard report examined why people, particularly women, don’t apply for jobs unless they are 100 percent qualified. According to women’s leadership expert Tara Mohr, those surveyed indicated that they felt they needed to meet every qualification not only to do the job well, but to even be considered as a hire.
“They didn’t see the hiring process as one where advocacy, relationships, or a creative approach to framing one’s expertise could overcome not having the skills and experiences outlined in the job qualifications,” writes Mohr in the Harvard Business Review.
According to Augustine, it’s important to note that you are 10 times more likely to land a job when you have a relationship with someone at the company. So in addition to playing up on your best skills and experiences, she says you should lean on your family, friends and alumni network to see if there is anyone at a particular organization or in your field who can help you with landing the job.
“It’s okay to reach out to those people and ask for pearls of wisdom,” says Augustine. “They can maybe help you with bumping your application up at a company and they can help you with figuring out what you should emphasize.”